Ship Launching and Commissioning

 


Crewmembers of the guided missle destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG-57)

Crewmembers of the guided missle destroyer USS Mitscher (DDG-57) man the rails along the fantail of the ship at the conclusion of commissioning ceremony of NAS Pensacola.


The act of placing a ship in commission marks her entry into active Navy service. At the moment when the commissioning pennant is broken at the masthead, a ship becomes a Navy command in her own right, and takes her place alongside the other active ships of the fleet.

This ceremony continues a tradition some three centuries old, observed by navies around the world and by our own Navy since December 1775, when Alfred, the first ship of the Continental Navy, was commissioned at Philadelphia. Once in commission, the commanding officer and crew are entrusted with the privilege and responsibility of maintaining their ship’s readiness in peace, and of conducting successful operations at sea in time of war.

No written procedure for commissioning was laid down in our Navy’s early days, but the act of commissioning was familiar, derived from established British naval custom. Ship commissionings were simple military ceremonies. The prospective commanding officer came on board, called the crew to quarters, and formally read the orders appointing him to command. He then ordered the ensign and the commissioning pennant hoisted; at that moment the ship went into commission and the first entry in the ship’s deck log recorded this. First logs from a sizable number of early Navy ships did not survive, and since commissionings were not surrounded by any public fanfare they were not written up in the press. We thus cannot know exactly when many of the Navy’s first ships were first commissioned. All that can sometimes be known is when a particular ship first put to sea.

 

Further Reading:

Decommissioning and Disestablishing

Christening, Launching, and Commissioning of U.S. Navy Ships

Commissioning Pennant

Ship Naming

 

Blog Posts:

The Traditions of Ship Commissionings

The 40th Anniversary, commissioning of USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69)

The 19th Anniversary, commissioning of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75)

Time Suspended For USS Tucson’s Commissioning

 


Ship Commissionings Infographic

This infographic shares the history and heritage behind ship commissionings. (U.S. Navy graphic by Annalisa Underwood/Released) Click to download.



USS FITCH (DD-462), commissioning


Commissioning of USS Trenton (CL-11)

Commissioning of USS Trenton (CL-11) on April 19, 1925 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.



USS New York (BB-34) during her commissioning ceremonies, 15 April 1914

USS New York (BB-34) during her commissioning ceremonies, 15 April 1914, at the New York Navy Yard, Brooklyn, N.Y.



USS Flint (CL-97) ship's officers saluting during her commissioning ceremonies, at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, San Francisco, California, on 31 August 1944.

USS Flint (CL-97) ship's officers saluting during her commissioning ceremonies, at the Bethlehem Steel Company shipyard, San Francisco, California, on 31 August 1944.



15 miscellaneous photographs of ships’ officers and crews in the early 20th century.  Views of ships and personnel, scenes on board ships including commissioning ceremonies.  Many are filed in oversize prints. Some have been removed from collection to NH series.

Commissioning ceremony, USS Arizona (BB-39) at the New York Navy Yard in October, 1916.



USS Porpoise (SS-172) commissioning ceremony

USS Porpoise (SS-172) commissioning ceremony, at the Portsmouth Navy Yard, Kittery, Maine, 15 August 1935.



Commission of the SSN New York City

Commission of the SSN New York City. Painting, Oil on Canvas; by William Merklein; 1979.


Published:Thu Apr 19 17:18:17 EDT 2018